Millennial dads are different. At least that’s what the media want you to believe.
Not a week goes by without major news outlets cheering the new trend of stay-at-home dads.
An article in Glamour last month touted “research commissioned by Avon Cosmetics [that] found that 70% of men questioned would stay at home to look after the children if it helped their partner achieve their career goals.
Furthermore, 78% of the 2000 participants (both men and women) felt that parents should take an equal share of the childcare responsibilities.”
Indeed, as The New York Times reported last week, “Millennial men — ages 18 to early 30s — have much more egalitarian attitudes about family, career and gender roles inside marriage than generations before them.”
In a June article in The Washington Post, New America CEO Anne Marie Slaughter praised these men for allowing women to finally take their rightful place in the corner office: “Call it the feminism of empowered dads,” she wrote.
Finally, we have the chance for true equality! Women have more educational and career opportunities than ever, and men have finally gotten over their aversion to changing diapers.
So what’s the problem? Why are stay-at-home fathers still less than 5 percent of the millennial dad population?
According to a 2013 American Community Survey conducted by the group Demographic Intelligence, more than 85 percent of millennial dads work full-time, another 6 percent are employed part-time and 4 percent are unemployed.
It’s not just that most dads have full-time jobs outside the house. It’s also that they’re earning most of the money — almost 60 percent of millennial dads earn more than 59 percent of their household income.
In an article last year called “The Brotherhood of the Stay at Home Dad,” The New York Times took note of this underappreciated group: “At-home mothers have every support resource in the book . . . Yet when it comes to dads who are the primary caretakers of their children — a group that is growing swiftly, both in size and visibility — the resources remain dismal. Few books. Fewer community groups.”
Indeed, many people suggest the reason more fathers don’t stay at home is that we aren’t providing enough support for them. They feel lonely and disrespected.
As the organizer of a conference for stay-at-home dads told the Times, “You’ll hear many guys describe it: I’m alone on an island in a vast sea.
There’s no history, no social structure, no guidebook. A guy jumps into this blind.”
According to an article co-authored by Sarah Thébaud of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and David S. Pedulla of the University of Texas at Austin, millennial dads are falling back to traditional gender roles because there aren’t enough family-friendly policies in the workplace to allow them the flexibility they need to be more hands-on parents.
In the American Sociological Review, the authors write, “Gender-traditional work-family decisions are largely contingent on the constraints of current workplaces.”
But the idea that if we only became more like Sweden, mandating paternity leave and the like, we’d have more egalitarian marriages is flawed.
Millennial dads may want to help out more with the kids and certainly log more hours at house-cleaning and child care than their fathers and grandfathers, but both genders still think it’s much more important for a man to be able to support a family than for a woman.
According to a 2011 Pew survey, 67 percent of millennials say it’s “very important” for a man to support a family financially if he wants to get married.
“But when the same question is asked about a woman, only 40% say it is very important. Young men and women agree on these views.” What’s more, “The view that it is important for a man to be able to support a family financially is shared across all generations.”
In other words, millennials might talk a good game about sharing responsibilities inside and outside the home equally. But when push comes to shove, someone has to be the primary breadwinner.
Men see that as part of their responsibilities and their wives — who want to spend as much time as possible with their young children — see it that way, too.
When singer Benton Blount made it to the next round of “America’s Got Talent” last week, Blount said, “Having my first child changed everything.”
He told the Greenville News: “I can’t just go out and play shows and come home and not bring money home because I’m trying to help support the family. [“America’s Got Talent”] gave me the opportunity, finally, to do that and to do that in a way that I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
While our cultural elites are prone to dismiss the desires of men to be breadwinners as a relic of medieval times, the truth is that men like Blount find the idea of supporting their families to be a big part of being good fathers.
?Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.